Graphic via orlandosentinel
Why is 2015 all about Blake? First of all, the Jaguars have a history of making bad first round draft picks. We can go all the way back to R Jay Soward in the early days of the franchise, to Byron Leftwich to Derrick Harvey to Justin Blackmon and we can perhaps already throw in this year’s number four pick in the draft in Dante Fowler who ruptured his knee on his first day of minicamp and is out for the year. The Jags desperately need a high draft pick to work out.
Also, this is Bortles’ second season. By the end of their second year, you can pretty much tell what you’ve got in your quarterback as far as the future goes.
In the NFL there are about four to five future Hall of Famer quarterbacks playing in a season. You can go back to the 1970s where there was Staubach, Bradshaw, Griese, and Stabler (who should be in the Hall). In the 1980s there was Marino, Elway, Montana, and Simms. OK, Simms isn’t in but maybe ought to be. Certainly no one would riot if he was.
In the 90s you had Kelly, Aikman, Young and Marino and Elway were still at it. In the 2000s there was Manning, Brees, Favre, Brady and in the 2010s Brady, Manning and Brees are still at it with Rodgers, Wilson, and Luck looking good so far.
So let’s look at who we have playing now in the NFL at quarterback. Brady and Manning are a mortal lock. So is Brees. Luck and Wilson are on the right track. These are your elite quarterbacks.
Then you have your Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning group where if they turn it up a notch they could make it, but if you had to bet on it you might bet against it.
Let’s look at some of their second year numbers:
Brady- 2002 he had 28 touchdowns and 14 picks. Rating was 85.7
Luck- 2013 he had 29 touchdowns and nine picks. Rating was 87.0
Dalton- 2012 he had 27 touchdowns to 16 picks. Rating was 87.4
Newton- 2012 he had 19 touchdowns and 12 picks and an 86.2
See the difference? Hall of Fame type quarterbacks by the end of the second year have at least twice as many touchdowns as picks that season. Let’s look at some more.
Peyton Manning- 26 touchdowns and 15 picks. OK he was a couple of TDs short, but he also had a rating of 90.7
Eli Manning- 24 touchdowns, 17 picks and a rating of 75.9.
So you can see there is a bit of a difference in the second years of the elite and the good-but-not-quite-elite quarterbacks. Bortles was not good in his rookie season. Granted, he was on a terrible team that probably would have looked a whole lot better with Justin Blackmon lining up at wide receiver. But that didn’t happen and Bortles spent most Sundays throwing to the guys in tight coverages. This resulted in 17 interceptions and only 11 touchdowns.
To make things even worse, the Jags had a chance to get him a target by drafting Amari Cooper, but in typical Jags fashion went with Dante Fowler. Cooper was one of the best college wide outs in Alabama football history and now Derek Carr has him to throw to instead of Bortles. DOH!
The roster looks much like a year ago with a couple of exceptions. T.J. Yeldon and Julius Thomas are a couple of new players that could give Bortles a little help. If Storm Johnson can progress from his rookie season and live up to some of his potential and Denard Robinson can master the wide receiver position, Bortles might have some weapons at his disposal.
Last year, the Jags had an awful record, but at times were not that bad. They were 3-13, which is hard to sugarcoat, but they hung tough on several occasions. They were pummeled in the first four games, but in the fifth week lost to the Steelers 17-9, then the following week lost to Tennessee 16-14, then after beating the Browns the following week, lost to Miami, Cincinnati and Dallas, three pretty decent teams, by 14 or fewer points. They got spanked on their first game back from the Dallas game which was played in London by the Colts, but in the last five games they were 2-3 with all three losses by 14 or fewer points.
So with a bit more offense, this team could move up significantly in the standings in 2015. Again, that is on Bortles. He can make a huge difference if he can throw 25 touchdowns and keep his picks down around 12. That could be a two touchdown per game swing right there.
With a 14 point swing per game these guys may have won eight to ten games a year ago. Can they turn it around in 2015? That all depends on Bortles.